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EDITOR IN CHIEF- ABDULLAH BIN SALIM AL SHUEILI

Cold chain infra to help save RO 135m in annual wastage

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The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries is joining forces with a number of public and private sector food and logistics sector stakeholders in the development of modern cold chain infrastructure designed to help reduce agro produce and fish wastage that costs the economy as much as RO 135 million annually.


Studies have determined that around 24 per cent of Oman’s annual fisheries production is lost due to spoilage attributed primarily to deficiencies in cold storage infrastructure along the logistics chain. This translates to around RO 25 million in annual losses to the sector.


Likewise, a staggering 40 per cent of Oman’s agro produce is thought to go waste on account of inadequate or deficient cold chain and logistics support infrastructure, resulting in losses estimated at RO 110 million annually.


A strategy devised by the Implementation Support & Follow-up Unit (ISFU) of the Diwan of Royal Court to help spur Oman’s economic diversification aims to reduce these losses to 6 per cent in fisheries production and 10 per cent in agro production — a move that could potentially yield around RO 135 million in savings to the national economy.


“Oman is working on developing cold chain logistics which will have beneficial implications for enhanced exports of fisheries and agro produce,” said the Unit in an overview on the many economic initiatives it is monitoring through to implementation.


“This will also minimise wastage of perishables in the country. To ensure that Omani products reach their export markets retaining their high quality, the country needs to enhance its cold chain logistics network.


To be able to operate efficiently in this sub-sector, logistics services companies are required to provide improved transportation capabilities for refrigerated products,” it stated. To address shortcomings in cold chain infrastructure associated with the agro and fisheries sector, Oman’s authorities aim to woo international companies as well as encourage local players to invest in cold storage and refrigeration facilities, according to ISFU.


Efforts to facilitate investment into, and development of, the cold chain and logistics support infrastructure have already attracted the interest of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Oman Global Logistics Group (Asyad), Oman Food Investment Holding Co (the food investment arm of the government, Muscat Municipality representing the Mawaleh Wholesale Vegetables Market, and various private companies.


For its part, the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries is moving ahead with plans to augment cold storage facilities at nine fish markets in operation at various locations along the Sultanate’s coast. It is also investing in a fleet of 41 refrigerated trucks (reefer) due to be operated by a private contractor and brought into operation during 2018.


Additionally, there are plans for the construction of a 15,000-tonne capacity cold storage complex that will also provide associated logistics services along the North and South Al Batinah coasts. A key goal, according to ISFU, is to ensure that food product quality loss can be significantly reduced through investments in modern cold storage infrastructure, thereby ensuring that consumers not only have access to fresh Omani produce, but quantities saved from spoilage as a result can be exported internationally. Longer-term, these initiatives will help position the Sultanate as a food hub for the wider region, it stressed.


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